Police have arrested the man they believe is responsible for two armed robberies inside Central Park within a week.
The crime spree started April 30 just before 8:30 a.m., according to police, when a man was held up near the entrance to the park at West 72nd Street and Central Park West. The 55-year-old man saw a man sitting on the ground, holding a small sign that read "Bike for sale $75, police said. When asked if he would like to buy the bicycle, the man said no, and then was asked for $5, which he once again declined.
After heading inside the park and sitting on a bench on the other side of the park, near the Fifth Avenue exit, the man noticed that the person selling the bike had followed him and was now standing in front of him, according to police. The suspect showed the man a black handgun while demanding money from the victim, who handed over around $1,000, and the suspect fled on the bike towards Conservancy Pond.
Police said that four days later, just before 4 p.m. on April 4, a 67-year-old woman was walking on a path near Swan lake inside the park when she was approached by a man riding a black bicycle. He stopped in front of her and demanded her purse, while once again brandishing a gun, police said.
The woman asked if she could keep her cellphone, which the man did not allow, before handing over the bag containing two credit cards, an iPhone 10, eye medication and about $200, according to police. The suspect took off on a path toward Fifth Avenue. The victim's iPhone was recovered near the scene by police shortly after.
Investigators said two pieces of evidence helped them identify the thief behind the stickups, and track him down: the bike he rode and the hat he wore.
Police added patrols to sections of Central Park near where the incidents occurred, and on Thursday during one of those patrols, officers discovered an encampment where they found someone that matched the description of the suspect, and a weapon.
"As he was conducting the canvas, (the officers') attention was drawn to a bicycle that possibly fit the pattern. He then encountered the individual," said NYPD Captain Bill Gallagher.
The suspect was wearing the exact same hat seen in a grab from a surveillance video, and a loaded gun was also found.
Police said the man, identified as Andrew Thornton, had been staying in the tent. The 34-year-old Alabama native was arrested and charged with two counts each of robbery, menacing and weapon possession. He was taken to the hospital where he is undergoing evaluation, under police watch.